Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Getting a Break

Well, I checked on the girls this afternoon. The really weak hive with all the yellow jacket issues seems to be doing a little better since we screened the bottom entrance and put out some wasp traps. I still saw wasps around the hive, but they seemed to be getting chased out pretty well.

The other two hives look pretty strong right now. They were kicking serious wasp butt - and there weren't near as many wasp as in the past.

I really hope these girls strengthen up a bit. Winter is straight ahead. We'll open all the hives and see how they are doing with the sugar water.

Bee Happy,

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Why Does Everything Want to Mess with Our Bees????

Our poor little girls. They work so hard and really only want to be left alone. But every frapping thing seems to want to mess with them. We mess with them, but we are the reason they are here, so I think they accept that. Maybe they don't, but it's not like they really have a choice on that one.

They've battled bears and skunks in the past - and now it's the stinkin' yellow jackets. The yellow jackets are robbing their honey. We put the hive reducers on, and that seemed to help. Two of the hives are doing a great job at keeping the yellow jackets out. But one of the hives is really struggling with it. Yesterday we put a screen over the bottom entrance to force the girls to use the top entrance only. The hope is that with the top opening being so small and everyone using it, it would be easier to defend. I went into the apiary today and darned if that hive still isn't battling those yellow jackets. The other two hives seem to be having no problem.

Alleyooper from Homesteading Today suggested I make some wasp traps to give the girls a little break from all the fighting. So I took four water bottles and made the traps. I filled about 1/4 with water and 1/4 with dish soap. Then I drilled a hole about a half inch from the top that the wasps could get in to. Alleyooper suggested I put jam on the inside of the lid to attract them, but I didn't have jam. I did have some chocolate cake icing though, so I put that in the lid before I screwed it on. The idea is that the icing will attract them to crawl into hole after it. And once they get inside the bottle, they can't get out. So they fall into the soap water and die. I sure hope it works. I am about sick to death of yellow jackets right now. And so are the girls.

I hope we manage to keep these hives alive through the winter. We're going to do everything in our power.

Bee Happy,

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Ever Wonder How to Render Wax - or Build a Wax Screen?

Well, you are in luck! I have finally update The Bee Buzz website. I've been meaning to do it for a while, and I finally just made the time and did it! I added two new pages - Rendering Beeswax and Make a Wax Screen. Check them out!

For a good long while after we robbed the hives, we would set the processing equipment outside during the day for the girls to help clean. And clean they did! The honey ladened equipment was pretty much spotless when they finished with it. Each day they would meet us in the front yard, looking for some piece of equipment with a little honey on it. Now that it's all gone, they still come up to the house and beg. It's very unbecoming, and we've told them about it. But we're having a hard time breaking them of it. The little hussies.

We're still upset over losing half our hives. I can't help but feel we really let them down. I can only hope we can take all we've learned this first year and do a much better job next year. That's the goal. It's tempting to open up the hives and check them every day now. But I know that's unreasonable and would probably make our otherwise very tame little honey bees a little pissed at us. I just pray we can get them safely through this winter.

Bee Happy,

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Down Two Hives - Just Like That

We robbed honey last month, and we had five relatively healthy hives. We knew three of them were rather weak, so we didn't rob from them. But we inspected them all, and they seemed fine. The food boxes were filled and we saw no cause for alarm. Just the month before the Dept. of Ag. guy came out and did a thorough hive inspection - everything was fine.

Imagine our surprise and sadness when we went into the apiary to winterize our five hives and found that two of them had died. Dead. No sign of life, other than the honey robbers. We are really in shock and disappointed. I just can't imagine what happened.

Given the apparent short period of time it took for this to occur, Colony Collapse Disorder does pop into our minds. I guess we'll call the Dept. of Ag. this week and let them know what happened. If it is CCD, I suppose the Dept. of Ag. are the people to keep track of it.

We also found mites on a few of the bees in the remaining 3 colonies. Not many - but enough for us to start treating them with Apistan. Additionally we saw little tiny black spots on the porch of each - this is sometimes a tell-tale sign of a type of dysentery that bees can get - and it can be fatal. So we also added Fumagil to their sugar water.

Each of them is being fed now. We put a gallon of 50/50 sugar water in each hive. When it gets colder, we'll up the percentage of cane sugar.

It really breaks my heart that we've lost half our hives this year. Poor little bees. They work their little tails off and every time they turn around something is trying to kill them. We are hoping that next year we can capture a couple of swarms and get the apiary buzzing again with more hives.

I can not describe the joy these girls can bring into your life. Just learning about their fascinating lives is amazing. Watching them and getting to know them is rewarded with entertainment and awe. And I can't even describe the taste of honey taken from your own hives.

It's our first year with bees. We've certainly had our ups and downs. But I wouldn't trade having our hives for anything. And I hope that maybe one or two of you reading this will consider getting hives of your own. There is nothing on earth like it!

Bee Happy,